Report: Animation Assemble!
- Flexibility. The flexibility achieved in animation during lockdown is a powerful tool to use in post Covid production & office culture.
- Challenges in licensing for children to work in voice whilst in lockdown, technical difficulties and struggle to direct take longer and are harder in lockdown so must be planned for to ensure that kids voices are retained in animation.
- The lockdown implementation of virtual writers rooms have helped manage a bar of entry in the U.K. allowing to bring in wider voices from around the world
Host Beth Parker began by asking the panel about the opportunities the animation sector has experienced because its production is suited to the conditions of lockdown.
Kate O’Connor, Director of Animation UK, combats the screen industry preconceptions that act as barriers to robust animation investment: that the production time is long, it is expensive and the only market is for children. Lockdown has helped her emphasize that animation is the “Cinderella sector” of the screen industries: it is agile, creative, innovative and responsive. These characteristics can help the industry become more competitive in the global market if properly recognised.
Chris Rose, VP of Animation Production and Development at Nickelodeon, found that the long time-frame of animation production better allows for successful pivot; for example, delivering mic kits to actors at home so recording quality could be maintained.
For Sarah Muller, Head of Independent Animation & Production at BBC Children’s, animation is the sole part of the sector able to complete delivery on time, on budget and as originally conceived. She stressed the room in the market for free content is important to fill, in order to serve all children if cost is a barrier to streaming content.
Alister Morgan, Director of Data and Insight at Acamar Films, explained the company proactively organised work-from-home procedures and maintained business as usual. They continued to hone focus on super-serving their audience to meet the increased consumption. Additionally, Alister found that the appetite for quality content has not peaked under lockdown.
Camilla Deakin, Joint Managing Director of Lupus Films, said the company adapted quickly to the requirements of working from home, so they were able to focus on increasing access for new talent.
Beth moved the discussion to ensuring relevancy of content for young audiences. Chris Rose pointed out that in order to capture today’s generation of children, which is the most diverse ever, their diversity must be captured in animation.
Camilla Deakin described lockdown as a time when there is “no normal”, and using no normal as an opportunity to try new types of storytelling with new storytellers and bring out themes of diversity in higher end productions.
Sarah Muller would like to see greater planning up front for diversity, particularly in voice casting.
Alister Morgan is frustrated to still be having diversity conversations; however, he’s observed these conversations landing in a way he has not seen before. The industry should continue to challenge itself to diversify leadership as a way to effect more systemic change and battle unconscious bias. Additionally, more opportunities for paid opportunities for BAME backgrounds will help make a difference in the production side of animation.
The strategies employed in animation for fostering employee mental health whilst in isolation can be carried over to benefit the workforce in a post-lockdown world. Camilla spoke about the intentionality needed to integrate naturally occurring colleague interactions in the lockdown environment: sending birthday greetings, for example. Increased flexibility to accommodate childcare needs will help employees going forward. Chris, Alister and Sarah appreciated proactive HR conversations checking in on employee wellbeing and conversations about access to EAP.
The panel concluded with Kate O’Connor discussing the impact on animation of the withdrawal of Creative Europe funding. The Global Screen Fund has been set up with the intention of helping deal with that loss. Kate is working to help UK screen industries better realise “downstream revenue” as a means to create opportunity and sustainability within animation. The UK is not yet globally competitive in terms of tax breaks as a way to attract animation production. The location flexibility maintained during lockdown could be a great tool in fighting Brexit brain-drain and help the industry increase inclusivity and diversity.
Freelance Executive Producer and Production Consultant
Joint Managing Director
Director of Data and Insight
Head of Independent Animation and Acquisitions
Executive Chair and Director
VP of Animation Production and Development